How Are You?

"Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given, the door will open." -Rumi True transformation lies in facing our troubles. So, why then, do we all spend so much time running from our problems and hiding them? Recently I was reading the book Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser’s wonderful book about using difficult times to help us grow, and once again came upon the great poet Rumi’s simple but profound words. Calling it the Open Secret, Rumi often writes about how we all spend our lives hiding behind the simple secret that we are not perfect.

Instead of facing our troubles or turning to others in our moment of weakness, we hide and pray that no one will see that underneath the organized and happy face we show the world that we are messy: that we might scream at our kids too much, that we are worried about paying our bills, that we suffer from panic and anxiety or that our marriages are falling apart. When asked the simple question, “how are you?” we don’t even stop to think about it, we automatically answer “fine”, hoping that the other person won’t see through our facade.

I know that for me personally, through each heartbreak, difficulty or sadness, I have experienced dread when hearing that simple question: “how are you?” With a tightening of my throat, I reach for the mask of perfection and smile, hoping no one will see that deep down I am anything but fine. In that moment, instead of reaching for help, we forget that we all have troubles and we all know we have troubles. In the moment it seems easier to hide than look directly at our pain.

I remember when my ex-husband and I first separated and were going through our divorce, it was difficult for me to go to my kids’ school and face my friends and other parents. My children were still very young at the time and I remember feeling that by going through a divorce I had been exposed as a failure. It was almost as if no matter what else I did, I was branded by the words “failure”, “bad mom”, or “loser”. I would take extra care to look pulled together because I thought if only I could look perfect, no one would notice that I was ashamed, suffering or feeling like my life (and that of my children) didn’t measure up to everyone else’s seemingly perfect picture. It literally felt like I was holding my breath until the moment I could walk out of school again and just let go.

Although I kept up appearances, hiding never really made me feel better. In fact, I felt worse because I kept measuring myself against some fantasy life I thought everyone else was living. Instead of realizing that we all share in troubles and shame, I hid and suffered in my separation. I was really afraid that if I looked at what I was hiding, that I would suddenly become all of those awful things. But, in reality, had I only been willing to share my pain, I might have learned that while your shame may not be the same as mine, we all have something we are afraid to share.Debbie Ford wrote that “...even though we are all uniquely different in our outer expression, we are very much the same in our inner world.”

It took me many years after my divorce to really realize what she said is true. I came by it only through the willingness of others to share their pain with me. In those moments of pure vulnerability, I understood the key to the Open Secret was that we don’t need to act like we are alone. We need to embrace the gifts of our troubles, share them openly and without shame and in turn give permission to others do to the same.

For me, sharing my secrets has led to not only embracing my fears, but to a career where I help guide people back to their voice. The doors that open are truly endless. This week, Partners in Peace would love to invite you to share your Secrets. Whether you reach out to a friend, a stranger or the two of us, take the first step in facing whatever troubles you so that might experience peace and open a new door.

With love and peace,